Friday, December 20, 2013

Duck Dynasty, Being Gay and Social Change

Apologies in advance for poor grammar and ramblings.  Those of you who've read my thoughts before know all too well my penchant for not stopping.

I've read the GQ article  which has caused so much frustration for so many people and it seems more than a little critical in tone and mocking.  I think there’s only the liberal outrage about his remarks because they were made in GQ, a magazine which is frequented by a larger demographic spread than A&E’s show, itself, or the outlets the family members have gone on thus far.  That said, I have to wonder if there’s a gentleman’s agreement that this sort of crapstorm is good for most parties involved.  GQ will get more eyeballs because of the flame-baiting article in its pages and the upcoming season of Duck Dynasty will have the highest viewership yet(mentioned in the article premiering January 15th!).  That said, reading the article in full reveals an evolving tone that by the end the writer seems to be anxious and questioning of the validity of his own lifestyle more so than being cynical about the family and their way of life..  Whether that’s just a craven attempt to balance the overall feel of the article, I certainly can’t say, but it seems like the writer has only rarely and fleetingly ventured out of the metropolitan city-scape, which is about as healthy as never leaving rurality.

Going straight for the controversial statements and views, Robertson puts out his own views on sexual attraction as well as the Bible’s view of it.  Put simply, I have no problem with him holding the view he does and I actually agree that purely sexually speaking, the female form is sexier.  However, to cast homosexuality as only being about the vagina or the anus is really focusing on a single aspect of what people’s felt attraction is all about.  I’d imagine Robertson is attracted to more than just the vagina of his wife, and I would offer the same good faith presumption to gay, lesbian or any other persuasion people in longer lasting relationships.

I also don’t think there is a first amendment issue at play here.  Being put on hiatus or temporary leave by A&E, a for-profit company that’s run as joint venture between ABC/Disney and Hearst Corporation, is not in any way the same as being legally prosecuted for one’s views, or having those views censored so people can’t see hear or read them and then later discuss the views, themselves.  Rather, it’s about the exact opposite of that happening as the media firestorm and the ubiquity of social media has given a great deal of attention to the GQ article and Robertson’s views somewhat detailed inside it.  I think accusations of there being a vast conspiracy of left-wingers trying to muzzle dissent are inaccurate as well, and the sort of outrage being directed at A&E is exactly the sort of response that society is said to be able to do in a purely Libertarian world where people feedback their criticism to companies rather than voting for people to carry out their will.  LGBT groups leading the charge against A&E, the Robertsons as well as any affiliated brands and companies I think are exercising a relatively newfound power and are wielding it with the grim resolve of a portion of society long mocked, persecuted or ignored feeling they finally have a say in things.

I think the shocked astonishment at his expressed views is either contrived or otherwise exacerbated by our generally single-issue-advocacy culture.  It’s only twenty years ago when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was passed, at the time railed against by the same people who railed against its later repeal.  This was after Elton John and David Bowie but before Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Neil Patrick Harris, and many others have come out in the 90’s and 2000’s.  While chunks of mainstream have certainly made peace with this part of humanity, there are definitely other parts of it who have  not.  There are 17 states allowing gay marriage, all done after 2004.  Most of the states have some level of prohibition of gay marriage, almost all done after 1996.  This screams being an issue in a great deal of volatility right now, and to get angry about someone expressing their views on the matter, no matter what they are, is silly as there’s clearly no social norm anymore.  The old social norm of it didn’t exist or that it shouldn’t be talked about or that it should be cured or beaten or ostracized out of people is no longer the case.  That’s why it’s so critical for us as a society to be able to speak to one another about not just religion, not just sexuality, not just politics but about any thing which comes into our focus as seeming important in a positive, negative, or neutral way.

I do take some issue with the Biblical narrative cast by Mr. (Phil) Robertson, which includes the idea that all animals were vegetarians until after the great flood.  This just doesn’t hold water as I see many animals which are purely carnivorous, appear to be built for exactly that, and yet at some point they changed from eating all greens to eating meat and there also was no evolution of their form to this function.

Being devout Christians doesn’t require a specific denomination, but it can certainly help in communicating one’s outlook on the world and also help people identify with one another.  It also helps lend legitimacy to complaints that not *all* utterances of Jesus’ name at the dinner table are broadcast and how that’s an important religious focus in one’s life.(I’d also point toward whatever contract was signed with A&E in creating the show to see about creative rights and editing powers of both the ‘cast’ as it were and the production staff).

I’m supportive of the idea that hunters ought be conservators of the outdoors, and that’s how it should be.  However, historically hunters have not proved useful in this role and some outside entity of government giving bag limits and direction on how old sport animals must be before they’re shot.  Also, the elimination of all cities and everyone living off the land and *also* maintaining it as a sustainable(here as ecological kind) resource there would need to be a severe reduction in the world’s population.  Some might see that as positive, though I tend to think the clustering of people together has more benefits than drawbacks.   While we may have great ideas in our heads, oftentimes there’s little to be done with the idea until there are enough people to give rise to its realization, either in building something or even just in purchasing it to give fortune to those with the idea.  Also, the idea of everyone living as rural custodians of the planet begins to encroach on the ability to travel very far, visit family and friends in further away areas or even to have them in the first place.  It’s important to have an understanding of not only different cultures and different places, but of differing opinions from people in the same place and culture.  We’re not all the same, and even the people sitting in the same pews of the same church have some difference in opinion when the grains and details are gotten into.  Being able to express these different beliefs, and to respond to them in a way that’s constructive is key to a functioning society, and putting ourselves on outposts in rural communities is not, I think, a way to better the current situation we already have, which is admittedly not great anyway.

Pre Civil Rights Era Blacks not singing the blues is just silly, as during the 60’s and 70’s is when The Blues hit its stride in mainstream appeal, and much of its formative years is from the late 19th and early 20th century.  That said, I don’t doubt he’s accurate in working shoulder to shoulder with black people and how there was not racial animosity between them, but I think it has little to do with welfare statism.  While slavery was repugnant there ought to be continuing recognition not all white people benefited from the ability to own other human beings.  As a reminder, not all white men were allowed to vote at the start of the country, and in the cities a lot of voter intimidation and rigging had everything to do with nationality among ‘white’ groups and the religions they felt strongly about, so to say there’s religious persecution like never before in this country seems to not carry a lot of weight in my mind.

Chicago vs Salt Lake City:  While Chicago may have the rep for Al Capone and machine politics, the former is only a reputation that came about after Chicago gained economic strength playing the butcher for the world and a major gateway helping to sustain frontier beachheads.

“You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.”
I agree wholeheartedly, and only point out that in our more devout days of the past before culture wars and modern immorality there were plenty of people not loving one another as God loves any of us, not just for race but for nationality(remember Irish and Polish and Italian and French and German immigrants all attacked one another when black, asian and hispanic people were foregone conclusions of being excluded.  I saw on the sign of a local church with the saying “Pray to God, but keep rowing”.  I think that could be taken to the societal level and must be for there to be any healthy maintenance or pruning of existing norms and ideas.

On the topic of sin, I think putting sin along with avarice and hypocrisy, slanderers and adulterers is just not accurate, even in the context of it being a sin in the first place.  There are multiple times where Jesus preaches against adultery, though our country’s Christian founding and upbringing has only occasionally flirted with criminalizing ‘traditional’ adultery in sleeping with another woman while already married.  The justifications for Jesus even addressing homosexuality apparently lay on citing his emphasis on adultery in general.  It also seems to place all sins as being the same, with drunkenness and adultery being tantamount to homosexuality, bestiality, swindling, and perhaps even so far as rape or murder though I doubt Robertson would support such an equivalency.  While there are certainly many different takes on sin even within Christian circles, I think there’s some degree of acknowledgement that some sins are consciously done knowing there is going to be damage to another person, and there are those that do not directly lend to the harm of another’s being.  Robertson in his college and early 20’s days participated in much of what he would have called sinful, and those past actions aren’t undone because of his putting his faith in Christ and repentance in his own soul.  Simply put, if they were put against one another, I’d much rather have sinners of the kind who are attracted to people of the same sex rather than later repenters who were violent in their youthful indiscretions.

One part the article does make that I’ve not heard many people focus, coming from the left or the right, is that the Robertsons are utilizing Duck Dynasty more or less as a launching pad for having a broader influence.  It notes they go on speaking tours and how Phil, in particular, focuses on being able to spread the good word.  This is great, for them, and great in that it adds more voices to the public discourse.  What I think is not great is the condescending manner they look at the ‘yuppies’ with, which is to say it’s not great people looking down on ‘rednecks’.  Instead of vilifying people with opposing viewpoints, engage them and in good faith listen to their principles and how those relate to what they think of policy, then do the same for them.  Even if they don’t pay that same professionalism to you, you’ll have come away with a deeper understanding of why they believe what they believe and may even be able to better convey your ideas to them or those like them in the future.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

A Rambling To Family Regarding The Embrace of Misinformation

I was sent a pdf scanned clipping of Dana Milbank's somewhat recent opinion piece regarding, among other things, Louisiana Republicans blaming the current president, Barack Obama, for the response to Hurricane Katrina's destruction more than George W. Bush, the president at the time the devastation took place.  I responded with essentially what is included below, with a minor edit to the first sentence to make it a little more readable.

The presumption of bad faith is a powerful thing, and seems very closely linked with the sort of team based, vendetta carrying dynamic.  In a specific person like the current president, this extends to Republicans and conservatives knowingly ascribing things to him that aren't so simply because it makes him look worse, or is something negative that can be tagged on him.  Some of this may be unconscious and due to misinformation on the part of outlets or leaders, but I think it's doing a disservice to people's knowledge of how politics works to say people don't understand that if they, themselves can spread the idea that something is Obama's fault that it will have the secondary effect of undermining not just him but those who voted for him and even those principles he is a stand-in for.

It's not quite apples to apples, but when accusations of NSA and DOJ abuses done under this administration are met with responses of well it was started under Bush, or waving it off as no big deal, that's defending the vanguard of our ideological position simply because we know it's important that leaders be protected so that they can advance things we do agree with, if at the cost of allowing things we disagree with in principle.

The mention of talk radio, I think, is notable because while there's no true liberal analogue to that group, the MSNBC of today is much more a reflexively liberal outlet than it was say, even ten years ago when it fired Phil Donahue for being critical of the Iraq War. The personalities on their shows are more likely to smirk and vaguely question the morality and intelligence of conservatives in a way similar to how talk radio hosts demonize libgressivecrats.  It's only natural that this has happened since these media outlets are in a constant battle for viewers and through that their lifeblood of advertising dollars.  Instead of seeking to challenge and inform a broad and diverse electorate they're seeking to affirm and enable a specific ideological cross section because that is a more reliable method of attracting and maintaining an audience.

All of this plays into the overall public discourse that happens not just on highly produced programs on Fox and CNN or the sophist's paradise of talk radio, but between family members and coworkers where we'll be unable to conceive of people legitimately having a different lens through which they view life.  Because of that we argue and try to convince others of our positions, essentially engaging in polemics we aren't articulate enough to pull off anyway, and often coming away feeling like we've damaged a personal or professional relationship, which just further burns our ability to have a functioning government and society.

I think a lost portion of this discourse at all levels is something that's not often discussed regarding classical philosophy, which is that we can have a conversation which is just as engaging and emotional as a polemic, but without the pitfalls of deepening our schisms since our form of government requires a certain fundamental level of cooperation and presumption of good faith on the part of others participating.

Scholasticism helped end the brooding hatred between Catholics and early Lutherans.  Dialectic was the manner in which some of the early 'greats' of philosophy communicated their ideas, such as the Socratic Dialogues.  While it's conceit to think any of our own minds are of a caliber matching that of these historical figures(or that there's some achievable shangri la kumbaya we must arrive at), I think it's a worthy goal to engage with those we disagree with in a way that challenges the preconceptions they may come to the table with from listening to their selected ideological media.

As always, if there are any who read this and have additional or contrary thoughts to add, please do so in whatever way you're most comfortable (email, comment, blog post elsewhere, whatever).

Friday, August 09, 2013

In a Thread Regarding Perception of Feminism and Feminists

There was a post on the /r/feminisms subreddit linking to an article by Noah Berlatsky featured on Slate.com about the role of men/males in feminist issues, and that specifically feminism is something which benefits both sexes(there is also a brief aside regarding a pews metaphor which I liked as well).  The commentary, itself, is alright(albeit rather short) and does make some points which I'll try to address at another time, though my interest for this post is in responding to a comment on the reddit submission page.  To see the rest of the comments on the submission, click on the first link in this paragraph.  My thoughts are in a thread of the following:

User flamesflight commented, "I think feminism has done a poor job conveying that patriarchy is harmful to men and children as well."

Hamiltonica replied, "I think the media representation of feminism has done a poor job of that."

flamesflight responded, "It is not the "media's" responsibility to clearly communicate our message. It is up to us to utilize the media available to do so."

To which outwrangle stated, "Well when the media systematically silences feminist voices and shuts us out of the public discourse... yeah, I'd say the media is responsible somewhat."

My response is pasted below with a minor edit, 'It's' changed to 'This is' in the latter portion.

"I'd say it's part of the heterogeneous makeup of why this misconception is held. There are certainly outlets which have a vested interest in misrepresenting what feminist issues are, what a feminist is, what their values are, etc. Let's say that Talk Radio generally as well as Fox News might fit this bill. However, there are also others who either are trying to do the 'just the facts' job or those who are even advocates for feminist issues. Let's say that's NPR and MSNBC for the sake of an idealized argument (I recognize both outlets certainly have history and current hosts who might bely this broad stroke).

The feminists who are seen/heard on hostile outlets like Talk Radio and Fox News are generally fewer and further between, as its not their audience's perspective and in fact many are predisposed to being anti-feminist so the more effectively a feminist can be caricatured as some sort of proto-matriarchal amazonian beast creature, the better. On NPR and MSNBC those who will be seen and heard are going to be the spokespeople or leaders of the prominent and powerful organizations which are dedicated to the cause. Generally speaking the leaders of these institutions are going to be in these positions because of some kind of perceived ability on the part of those people that make up the organization. While that might be a haphazard way of putting it, I'll try to rephrase and say the people that are the leaders of advocacy groups are those liked most by people self-identifying and participating in these groups, and therefore the leaders are going to be best suited to speaking to like-minded individuals, elsewise they're not going to be in a positions of authority on the topic.

Why this matters in my opinion (and this extends beyond feminist issues and is more directly an issue having to do with hyperpluralizaion in society, more visibility due to modern media, as well as our diminishing ability to communicate meaningfully when more and more of our lives is involved in pursuits which don't involve interaction with other people or is long distance and anonymized) is that say I'm an honestly confused person wanting to be better educated on feminism and those people who support it. Also there is no internet to look the stuff up on(since it's a relatively recent advent and many consumers of news media of any ideology don't bother to do the digging, themselves). There's either these people over here telling me feminists are anti-male nazis and their examples are the shrill freakouts allowed on the air, there's this other group that says they're legitimate and the people they bring on don't really speak to me or to others not on-board with the cause already, and there's this other group that says feminism is more critically needed than ever before and the feminists they highlight seem to take the opinion that anyone not supporting feminist causes has got to be a consciously complicit member of the patriarchal society and the the cause.

This is an environment where public discourse is present, and feminists are in fact being recognized but it's so fragmented there's not a true 'public' discourse so much as catered private discourses that inflame their respective audiences to distrust even engaging with 'the others' which is in my opinion part of the engagement in discourse in the first place."

I attempt to bring the topic around to an issue which I've been working on as part of the group of posts Intellectuals, Elitists and Public Discourse, which is the 'purpose' of public discourse.  This is not to demean women's issues; rather, I think no matter how important or mundane the topic of discussion being engaged in, we who are invested in seeing our perspective be taken onboard by others both apathetic and critical of our opinions owe it to the seriousness of the topic, the time we spend considering these things and to the intelligence and humanity of those we're attempting to convince to consider the manner in which we discuss these things to mitigate unfair and inaccurate portrayals of those views as well as to 'speak to' uncertain or antagonistic factions such that there is a real grasp of what the actual positions and true principles we hold are.

As always, I solicit for the perspectives of any who read this and consider it worthwhile to respond.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Starting With Zimmerman's Race

I’ve heard somewhat frequently a variation on this theme: Doesn’t it mean/suggest/imply those who say Zimmerman is ‘white enough’ are displaying a kind of racism, themselves as glossing over differences among caucasians? Or is this a case of being ethnically insensitive/prejudiced rather than racist given Latinos and Hispanics have often and are still often grouped as simply white? Or does it mean perhaps many immediately began assuming based off a news report or tweet or article with no picture or word of mouth attached a race to the name George Zimmerman?

The Latino, Hispanic, and multitude other descriptions/labels/identifications for an extremely varied descendancy covering multiple continents are only that, labels. Identifying based on a nationally linked ancestral path could mean a variety of of things. Many are of a mixed european and Amerindian heritage, both of which have intragroup variances from portuguese speaking and often family traceable paths from Portugal rather than more Spain-linked country-identified countries such as Mexico or Puerto Rico. To say those two nations’ ancestry is insignificant enough to gloss over would be to diminish those differences. Expand this out and both Portugal and Spain were influenced in ways beyond cultural by various northern european, roman and moorish invasions. And none of this considers African, Indo-Sino and Semitic bloodlines.

So why is this mind blowingly complicated and delicate issue being dragged out in the media and expounded upon in our legal and public discourse spheres? Specifically *because* it’s so complicated, rife with shameful and confusing-to-consider practices of institutional, cultural and legal norms over the course of millennia. This is more than just workplace or law enforcement discrimination, more than segregation or jim crow laws. Deeper than slavery or colonialism. It’s beyond genocide or holocaust. These are the awful outcomes of a prejudice that is as much in the fiber of every one of us as as our religion or sex and gender facets or philosophical/values/ideology. If we are at work, let our value in production be the gauge in that part of our lives. If we are interacting with the criminal justice system, let our actions be the determiner of the kind of interaction that is. Being Irish and Catholic should be no more of a hindrance or boon in one’s interactions in all but those portions of society specifically based on one of these factors. Because this is such a commonly felt and historically present aspect of negatives in people’s lives, it’s something we can all relate to in some way, being invested in it and talking about it and seeing it. That’s how the media knows this is something that sells(ignoring the individuals making up the journalistic and editorial staffs of outlets). Why it’s so ugly every time this issue is raised is evidence not only of its unresolved status, but also our diminishing ability to productively engage one another on these topics. I don’t think this is a conscious and craven attempt to break apart our public discourse, but rather something that has arisen from multiple factors. Attempts to broaden audiences and comprehensibility of content have often led to shallower content, more argumentative and less intellectual discourse and a generally broader brush with which media paints things. This isn’t necessarily bad, as it can make issues that are normally bland and uninteresting suddenly topics that people are engaged in and eager to talk about. However, it can also mischaracterize issues as more simple than they really are and depict things in a much more black and white, right or wrong, specific and confined issue or not. Combine this with connected organizations whose purposes address only a single demographic group eager to utilize any and all current events as a cause celebre to affect some sort of change they feel would be positive but in fact often come off as opportunists seeking to exploit legitimate tragedies for dubiously linked policy goals. I think this is why it’s constantly being brought up in the media and why it so often seems to be a terribly execute conversations on the matter. That's not the incentivizing force for nearly anyone hosting or participating in the public discourse.

This relates to the Martin/Zimmerman situation in multiple ways. Profiling, not just based on race but even clothing can lead to an unproductive presumption on the part of not just individual officers or citizens acting within the letter of the law, but of the wording of laws themselves. What I mean by this is that when profiling and other noncriminal criteria are assumed as easily identifiable and properly applied, it stands to reason regulations can be regarding the application of penalties can be more permissive. Initial images of the two individuals proved to be at the least questionable if not biased in their depiction of Martin and Zimmerman. The first pictures of Martin proved to be years old and smiling jubilantly. Zimmerman’s, by contrast, looked like a mugshot. As tensions over the race and age and disregarding of emergency dispatchers and racial epithets muttered over the phone, I have long felt a highly underdiscussed aspect of this story has been that following his being taken into custody, examination and questioning by police the evening of the fight and shooting, Zimmerman was essentially done with the system. It wasn’t until public outrage, both local but especially national, made it all but absolutely necessary to further investigate the situation. However, this was still law enforcement and while they ultimately filed charged that have now lead to the trial, my frustration from the beginning has had to do with the ability to apply the stand your ground law in such a way that police officers at their headquarters were able to make the determination that the law was followed. I think there ought to have been at the least a scheduled hearing where at least a judge would review all evidence and testimony as well as witnesses and affected individuals could give context to the detached judgment of the judicial branch. It seems only proper given that a loss of life occurred, yet this was not the course the system was following prior to the involvement of federally appointed investigators.